[A-Z] S is for Short and Sweet

I got nothin’ for you tonight just because I’m tired, I have a headache, and am beset by kobolds.

So here’s a picture of Rufus, one of the kittens we’re fostering. Notice he has eyes. This picture is a couple of days old, so those eyes are wider now, and he is more exploratory. He’s gonna be a handful when he gets older.

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This brief entry brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

[A-Z] O is for Otherworldly Stuff

nessieThere probably isn’t a huge snakelike plesiosaur hanging out under the waters of Loch Ness in Scotland (though when I visited there in 2001, that didn’t stop me from looking carefully for Nessie). And there probably isn’t a giant ape-like critter lurking in the northern woods, leaving giant footprints in its wake. The Dover Demon was probably a monkey or something like that, and I’m reasonably sure the chupacabra corpses that have been found were simply dead coyotes with mange.

But my cynicism goes even further: I’m pretty sure we’re not being visited by alien creatures in UFOs, and I’m pretty darn skeptical about ghosts.

But I’m still interested in these things. I have several thick books about ghosts, a few about cryptozoology, and many about myths and folklore and even a dictionary of superstitions. In the 90s, I was interested in conspiracy theories, though only academically: I was interested in the mindset that would lead people to believe that, say, JFK was assassinated by the Zeta Reticulans because he was about to reveal the truth of Majestic-12, for example.

I was a big believer when I was a kid. My parents bought me books like Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Daniken, and I pretty much ate them up. I was particularly enamored with the Bermuda Triangle… That is, until I read a book called The Bermuda Triangle Solved or something like that. It laid out in a very logical fashion the history of the Bermuda Triangle, and debunked all of the paranormal theories behind it. Time warp? Debunked. Alien abductions? Debunked. The truth is, there are actually no more disappearances or vanishings in the Bermuda Triangle than there are over any other comparable area of the ocean.

So while I am skeptical about just about everything paranormal and otherworldly, I am still fascinated by the ideas. I’ve written stories about ghosts and Bigfoot and giant squid and other cryptids.

Sometimes I do wish there was a bit more to the world than what can be measured with our existing senses, but then I start thinking about the sort of thing I wrote in my last entry, and realize the world around us is pretty damn spiffy as it is.

(Of course, I’m also an Episcopalian. More about that later.)


This out-of-the-world post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

[A-Z] Z is for Zoology Etc.

Animal_diversityWhen I first started college at UC Davis, my plan was actually not to study Philosophy or English or any of the liberal arts at all. I’d done so well in my science classes in high school (particularly AP Biology) that I originally planned on going into medicine, with a focus on Biomechanical Engineering, whatever that meant at the time.

But, as usually happens with freshmen in college, I ended up changing majors. First, I went in as a Biological Sciences major. Then I decided that Marine Biology was really neat, so I switched to that. Then I was going to double major in English and Zoology, theorizing that I could do science in the days and write science fiction at night (“I could make up realistic sounding aliens, and then write about them!” is what I told people). Then I really wanted to be a veterinarian, so I switched over to animal physiology.

Then came my sophomore year, and I was a bit more realistic about what I could achieve in college. Mathematics had always been my downfall in high school, and I was no better off in college, where Calculus just about killed me. And so did Chemistry. Ugh. I ended up taking Statistics twice, and did worse the second time around than the first. But I did fantastic in the biology courses and physics courses that I took. I got a B+ in Physiology 110, which many students agreed was one of the hardest undergraduate courses at UC Davis. Emboldened, I took another swing at Chemistry, only to fail again. Double ugh.

Then I took a course in the philosophy of the biological sciences, and it was like I’d found my true calling. I was one of the only students in that class who understood the material and what was going on. The professor (actually a professor of population genetics who happened to dabble in philosophy) was impressed by me as well. Just at the end of that quarter I officially changed my major to philosophy.

My memory’s a bit sketchy here, but, as I recall, to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Davis, you needed a total of 180 quarter units (each class, of course being 4 or 5 units). To get a degree in Philosophy you needed to have a minimum of 52 undergraduate units in philosophy courses. When I graduated, I had 80 units in Philosophy, and 225 units overall, the point at which the University pretty much booted you out. That meant I had over 100 units in a wide variety of other courses like Botany, the aforementioned Statistics courses, Religious Studies, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Folklore and Mythology, History, and so on. Not enough in any one field to get a minor in any of them, let alone a double major. I just enjoyed learning about whatever tickled my fancy whenever I opened that course catalog. My major adviser called me an intellectual vagabond and a dilettante. I wasn’t sure at the time, and I’m still not sure, whether he was complimenting me or expressing his frustration.

And, ironically, I never took a course in zoology.

And when it came time to graduate, I froze in terms of what to do next. I could have gone on to graduate school in Philosophy (I had a particular propensity for the philosophy of science as well as symbolic logic and the philosophy of religion), but the notion of having to focus on one area of study for the rest of my life was grating to me. I ended up doing… nothing. Floating. Drifting. Taking on job as a barista, a clerk at a video store, a newspaper delivery driver, a pizza delivery guy, and so on. Really, it was by chance that I ended up working at the same University where I had studied, and sheer luck landed me into my current job (okay, I spent years teaching myself web programming, but you get the idea).

To this day, I still enjoy reading books on philosophy and science, and I pride myself on being able to talk intelligently on a wide number of topics, as well as being smart enough to ask questions on the topics I know nothing about. I went to library school for a little bit, on the assumption that I would be able to find in there a career that would let me be paid to be an intellectual vagabond and dilettante, but I wasn’t able to fully integrate my love of open source technology with what I was learning, so I dropped out. A silly decision which I still regret, but what the hell.

So now I get my dose of vagabonditry and dilettantism here and there, reading books, watching documentaries, visiting zoos and natural history museums, and so on, though I really don’t do any of those as much as I used to.

In a way, I still feel adrift. I like the job I’ve landed in, and I enjoy writing the stories I do, but I still wish I could have found a way to make my curiosity pay my way through life.

[A-Z] F is for Fuzz!

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Our friends L and G seem to have the ability to attract stray and feral cats in the neighborhood. This is through no fault of their own; they just happen to have huge neon “SUCKER” signs attached to their heads

So while L and G went off to visit family back east a couple of weeks ago, one of the strays in the neighborhood, a chunky young she-cat that they hadn’t gotten around to naming, gave birth to six tiny kittens.

“Kittens!” Jennifer squealed at me. “They have kittens! We have to visit the kittens!” I figured this was a good idea, not just because I happen to like kittens as well, but also it would help get my mind off of Rosemary.

Then this morning L was talking to Jennifer about how fostering another six kittens would be a serious chore. Jennifer turned to me and said “It’s too bad you’re not interested in fostering kittens, you know.”

So I thought about it and realized that it might not be so bad. “Why not?” I said. “Let’s do it.”

We, too, have bright neon SUCKER signs on our foreheads.

So, basically, we have acquired seven new cats: a young mama cat (we have no idea how old she really is, and cats are notoriously reticent about giving out their age when asked) and six babies — five orange, and one tuxedo. We’ve decided to dub them the Supernatural Kitties, and name them after various characters from the show Supernatural. And hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a LiveStream account and a webcam so that we can peek in on the kittens any time we want.

Right now the kittens are incredibly young, a week or two at the most. Their ears have popped up, but their eyes have yet to open. The mama cat — Ruby — is still very protective of them. She’s also a bit shy and nervous with us, and we haven’t been able to coax her out of her box to eat or drink water or use the litter box. We’re confident, though, that she’ll come around. She’s not feral, and must have been exposed to people at some point in her life.

The other cats are somewhat perturbed by this state of affairs, but only because the new kittens are currently being kept in the spare room where we used to feed Rosie. Azzie and Rupert are still convinced that yummy wet food lies just beyond the closed door, even though Rosie isn’t in there any more.

Brand new kittens. New fuzz in the house.

Yeah. This makes me happy.


This fuzzy wuzzy blog post brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

[A-Z] P is for Picture Show (Rocky Horror)

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Just yesterday I wound up listening to the soundtrack for the Rocky Horror Picture Show at work. It was pretty awesome. Although it’s been a good twenty years since I last saw that film, I still know most of the songs by heart, and can still recite the audience participation lines for them as well. Of course, I didn’t do that at my desk at work. Nor did I get up to do the Time Warp when that song came on (though a co-worker did suggest we could have a Time Warp dance mob in our conference room).

Listening to the album left me nostalgic for my high school and early college years. It was my friend Brad Sunday who introduced me and several other members of our high school science fiction club to Rocky Horror; somehow he’d acquired a VHS copy and played it during an after school meeting (bear in mind this was a Catholic high school, and it was done with a teacher’s permission). He taught us some of the audience participation lines (but not all — because Catholic high school) and when and where to throw toast and toilet paper at the screen, so that when we finally went to the real thing, we wouldn’t be unprepared.

Me, I didn’t go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show until I was in college at UC Davis, and then for awhile I really got into it. With my friends P. and T., I drove into Sacramento just about every weekend, often twice a weekend. I threw the toilet paper, I shouted the lines, I danced the Time Warp in the aisles, and I even played Eddie in the floor show one night. That was fun.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Certainly it’s nowhere here in Sacramento. It might be playing regularly in some small theater in San Francisco or Berkeley, but those theaters are just hard for me to get to. I went to the Berkeley show once, about fifteen years ago, with a bunch of friends, but that’s about it. Nowadays, if I want to see it locally I have to wait until June (when the Sacramento Horror Film Festival rolls into town) or Halloween.

And perhaps that’s for the best. I’m past the age where staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning appeals to me, and, of course, that was part of the whole experience. I’m still young enough to be appalled that Fox is considering making a two-hour television version of the movie, but too old to want to go and dress up as Eddie again.

Or maybe I should go in June. Maybe I should go, just to do the Time Warp one last time.


Let’s do the A-Z Blogging Challenge again!

[A-Z] W is for Writers I Know

A brief entry today because I’m still feeling sad about Rosemary. So I am just going to write briefly about some books you should be reading and some writers that I know.

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First is my friend Dale Emery, who is a fine, under-appreciated writer, whose contemporary fantasy stories are always entertaining and full of heart. This book, Winding Unwinding, collects five of his stories (which are also available individually on Amazon), each of which is wonderfully written.

Go forth and buy.

germination

I also recommend you track down and read Germination by Jamie Thornton. I mean, just when I thought the zombie genre was as dead to me as vampires, along Jamie comes and refreshes it with a new take and a new perspective. This is the first in a new YA series which promises to be excellent. So, go forth and buy some more.

Jamie also wrote Rhinoceros Summer, which is another novel that I highly recommend.

changelingwars

Third, you should spare some loose change for Loose Changeling (see what I did there?) by Andrea (A. G.) Stewart. I’m not the biggest fan of urban fantasy, because I feel like so many of the novels I’ve read in that genre were so much alike. But Loose Changeling is fantastic. There’s magic, sword fighting, monsters, and more. Andrea says that the Changeling Wars saga will be six to seven books long, and I am furiously awaiting each of them.

There. I’ve given you three excellent book recommendations. What are you waiting for? Read these books!


The very literate letter W is brought to you by the

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[A-Z] G is for Goodbye (RIP Rosemary, 1999-2015)

Rosie-closeup

I remember losing my one of my first childhood pets: Herman the mouse. I woke up that morning and went straight into the den where he lived to check in on him, and found him utterly unresponsive. I tapped on the side of his cage, said his name, and so on, but nothing happened.

That day I couldn’t concentrate at school, and probably started crying at one point because my teacher, Mr. Walsh, took my into the hallway to ask me what was going on. “Herman d-d-d-d-died,” I sobbed. Mr. Walsh was very understanding and went easy on me in class that day.

It doesn’t ever get easier; losing a furry member of our family is always hard. And today I’m still having trouble processing that last night we lost Rosie. I’m sitting here at work (well, technically on break at the moment), unable to concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing.

Rosie was a good kitty, one of the original seven that came into the marriage with Jennifer. I liked her, and had a pretty good relationship with her. She never sat on my lap or anything like that, but she often did sit on the cat tree in our office, purring and occasionally meowing at me. Sometimes I had treats for her: cream cheese from my bagel, bits of turkey from my sandwich, or French fries, which she loved (she would even sneak a fry from a pile of them).

Last night, knowing it was time, I gave her lots and lots of cream cheese before we took her to the emergency veterinary clinic. This resulted in her farting the entire trip, making the car smell like cat poop. It was kind of funny — because, admit it, cat farts are funny — but I couldn’t laugh.

At the hospital, Jennifer had to do all the talking, because I just couldn’t say anything. I tried to be all cool and manly, etc., but I suck at that sort of thing. We didn’t even bother asking for an emergency vet to look at her. We knew what was happening. The vet tech at the counter was very understanding, said they were going to do a “code seven” instead.

They took us into a small examination room, then took her away to put in the catheter. She was gone for half an hour while they did this, and Jennifer and I fretted that Rosie would get stressed feeling sick and away from us for so long, and Jennifer went to the front counter to ask what was taking so long.

When the vet came in with Rosie wrapped up in a blanket, we were relieved to see it was the same vet who had identified the fistula before. It meant that she could see personally how far the tumor and bone infection had progressed. She was impressed by Rosie’s halitosis, brought on by the infection in her mouth.

Rosie purred the entire time. It was her way. The whole time Jennifer held her wrapped in the blanket. She purred a lot. She was generally a happy kitty.

Purr.

Breath.

Purr.

Breath.

Silence.


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